Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bryant Ridge Shelter (sleeps 20!)

Started at Wilson Creek Shelter
Ended at Bryant Ridge Shelter
20.6 miles

Conserving battery still so the quick recap is:

Boys rolled a lot last night and I didn't get a good night sleep. Had good breakfast but slept in so left shelter late.

Benadryl hiked with us during the morning. Passed giant wall made from huge rock blocks, looked like castle. Blackberries on side of trail.

Hiking along the Blue Ridge Parkway for most of the day. They had garbage cans at the overlooks and I was excited to throw our garbage away; 4 people generate a lot of waste.

Swam in Jennings Creek.

Hiked with Seabiscuit (like the horse) after swimming. He was with us for 3 miles, really helped keep us moving.

Tonights shelter is awesome, sleeps 20, 3 levels, covered picnic table.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Wilson Creek Shelter

Started at Howard Johnson in Daleville, VA
Ended at Wilson Creek Shelter
11.2 miles

Kids swam at pool before we left.

Went to get new pack from outfitter. Didn't like it at first but with luck I will figure out a way to make it work better.

Stopped at Krogers for almond butter packets to go with our apples, paid lady $1 to mail letters since we couldn't get postage (they only sell by the book).

Mailed broken REI pack back at UPS. Also sent box home with camera since I mostly use my phone.

Hiked loud trail by highway, but got to first shelter really fast so moved on to next shelter, since our Stillwater neighbors were named Wilson I thought we should stay at this shelter.

Met 2 southbound hikers, Pablo and Benadryl.

Long time till I see an outlet for my phone so conserving battery.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Zero in Daleville

Started and ended at the Howard Johnson in Daleville, VA
0 miles

The hotel offers a free hot breakfast, so after sleeping in till 8:00 I went to check it out. Good thing the kids stayed in the room because it was sugary cereal, donuts, soggy eggs, and not one fruit related item (except maybe the jelly packets that may have had a fruit like flavor). We had the granola I bought last night with bananas and blueberries.

Goodwill is down the street so I bought a few books to keep the kids busy. I didn't know they would spend the day swimming, but at 50 cents each I don't feel like I wasted money. Before bed Pete and I read "The Other Side Of The Bridge."

After Goodwill it was off to Kroger and Outdoor Trails. On the way we saw Benadryl who was getting food. After saying hi we went to Outdoor Trails and got Pete new shoes. He had the biggest feet and could fit in a 7 woman's, the smallest size the store carried. His new shoes do not look like woman's, so you would never know. In the picture of the store I am sitting on the floor in a shirt I got out of the hiker box at the hotel. I might send it home I like it so much. At the store we also saw Snail Pace and Haystack, two Graybeards hiking the trail.

After getting food we saw Jesus (Hey Zus) who is about to join a friend off trail for a few days. We should see him when he gets back on the trail. While I was loading up my backpack with the food we bought a guy stopped to talk. A family in his neighborhood had hiked the AT. Turns out the guy visited all 50 states before he was 25 and is also a world traveler, speaking more German than French but lived in both countries. As a kid he lived in Paris, taking field trips to all the cultural spots.

Then we swam, a lot. Now we are reading and winding down our day. Hiker midnight is 9:00 so we will be asleep soon.

Howard Johnson Swimming Pool

We spent a lot of time at the pool today. Usually the kids get bored, but today a bunch of other kids were in the pool and that made it very fun. Pete is jumping into the pool and Harvey is flipping.

Howard Johnson Super Heroes

The kids love Howard Johnson towels, not for drying off after the pool but because they can tie them on and run around like superman.

Daleville, VA

Started at Lambert Meadow Shelter
Ended at Howard Johnson in Daleville, VA
9.4 Miles

Started the day with a recap of the night. Reed moved from the shelter to the picnic table and then back when it started to rain. Sydney went to the bathroom, got disoriented while getting in her sleeping bag, and ended up sleeping sideways. The boys slept straight, two guys snored, and an owl was heard.

Patches of blue were spotted during breakfast so we were all optimistic the sun might show up. As we hiked the ridge, patches of valley emerged. At a Hammer gel break I got a picture of the group with some valley in the background.

As the day progressed the sun shone more and more till it finally broke out from behind the clouds. We hit a lot of rocks and tons of good bouldering. On one huge rock Reed and I climbed up and had a great view of the lake.

My broken hip belt finally ripped all the way off, but I tied it back on and what a huge relief. My shoulders were getting really sore from taking the bulk of the weight. Harvey and Pete both complained about foot problems. It looks like the new shoes are rubbing the ankle. A zero day in town should help, along with some dry weather, but I may need to look into different shoes for them.

We had Big Sur Bars and wanted to share them with Andy and Reed. We split the bars in half whole sitting by the train tracks. If you look close at Pete you can see lots of mud from when he slipped and fell, landing in the mud. He used his shirt to clean the mud from his face so he is shirtless in the picture.

We had a choice between the Howard Johnson and Super 8. As we walked toward them (they are across the street from each other) the HJ had a sign saying pool, so that made the choice an easy one. The also have breakfast and laundry, everything a hiker needs. At the checkin counter was a sign saying the Mexican restaurant across the street gave a 10% discount for hotel guests. We had to cross a 4 lane road, and suddenly descending huge boulders with backpacks seemed a safe pastime. We safely crossed the road and had a great lunch.

Next on the agenda was getting clean and dry. We take everything out of the packs to dry and did laundry. The kids got to swim during this and the sun came out making it a great afternoon.

Dinner was from our hiker food, but Sydney wanted yogurt (it helps her take her medicine). Kroger was down the street so we walked (ha, ha, hiker joke since we walk everywhere). Harvey was feeling sick, and he didn't go crazy at the Mexican restaurant so I was a little concerned.

The Kroger store was big and had a natural foods area. We got the yogurt and a few extra things too. On our way back to the hotel Sydney wanted to hitchhike. I said no, but at the stoplight exiting the shopping plaza a woman rolled her window down and asked if we needed a ride. Sydney got her request and we made it back safely.

Once back at the hotel Harvey puked.

Rancho Viejo Mexican Restaurant


Lunch was in town, so we had Mexican. The kids love chips and salsa, and we also got a cheese dipping sauce that Harvey and Pete loved. Sydney and I had guacamole. Harvey had the burger and fries, Pete refused to order so I got him a chicken burrito with rice and beans and said it was for me. I got the California Burrito, purely for the name! Sydney wanted shrimp (no surprise) and Reed helped her pick out a shrimp chimichanga. When the food came I had the waiter put the chicken burrito in front of Pete. It didn't take long before he asked for a bite, and then kept eating it.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Burritos for Dinner

Loved em, Harvey enjoying a bite.

McAfee Knob

Very cloudy. We stayed almost an hour as the boys built dams and then broke the dams. It was a rain free zone for a few minutes before starting again.

Andy said the rock in the picture is one of the most photographed spots on the AT.

McAfee Knob

Started on ridge before Va 311
Ended at Lamberts Meadow Shelter
11.9 miles

Today was a mix of high and low points. It started with the tent. It was raining and had just slowed before we were about to pack up. We rushed to take advantage of it and everyone worked great as a team. The rain fly was off quickly and I put it on the ground, then the kids took the poles out and folded them while Sydney and I put the tent body away. Next I grabbed the rainfly, and it was covered in dirt from laying on the ground. It was really dirty, but other than that it was a big success.

At the road someone had left water (Trail Magic!). We were completely out and everyone was so thirsty we drank. About 10 min later Andy and Reed show up with yogurt, bananas, and more water! We filled all our water and even had a Recoverite. The yogurt and bananas really hit the spot.

Stomachs and water bottles full we started our hike up McAfee Knob. It was only a few miles and the kids were so excited to see Reed they could have run up it. Reed's girlfriend was taking a cruise ship in the Mediterranean so he was free for the hike. At the shelters we wrote in the journal and Reed got the trail name "Bearded Elf". They drew some creative Elf pictures, including the Bearded Elf himself. .

Things are still really good (except for the dirty rainfly), but a break in the rain was not materializing. We spent all but about 10 minutes with great views of the inside of a cloud. It is very white for anyone who has not been in a cloud.

The last 2.5 miles to the shelter took forever: kids had to go to the bathroom, we took a few 20 min breaks, Andy slipped and bent his pole, my backpack belt broke, and Harvey was getting a blister from his new shoes. It was not fun. Finally I had to stop digging holes for the boys to poo in and said hike to the shelter.

We got to the shelter and two others were also staying, but we could fit 6 easy, and squeezed in one more when Benadryl arrived. It stopped raining and the boys had a privy so things for me had gotten positive very fast.

We had a great dinner: Trader Joes wraps with Mexican meal in a bag. Very good and the wraps were easy to roll. The kids snacked like vultures on whatever scraps they could beg from Andy. We have plenty of food, they just like other people's food more.

Pictures of McAfee Knob


Broken Hip Belt

The REI backpack that I bought last year is going back to REI on Tuesday! Today the fabric supporting the hip belt broke. I called REI customer support. She was great, reading me a list of replacement options, both REI and non-REI options. I really wanted my REI pack but had to choose a different brand. I got next day delivery and she waived the shipping charges for me! I will buy from REI again!!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Bears and Antibiotics

Started at 4 Pines Hostel
Ended at unnamed ridge tent camping
4.5 miles

We got a late start today, hitting the trail at 4:30 when 3:00 was my goal. It was a slow morning with no alarm clock and no reason to hurry. After breakfast (please note: cream flavor oatmeal is fewer oz. than the regular flavor stuff) we went to fill water bottles and talk with the other hikers when Sydney asked for Neosporin. Looking at her legs and then looking at the boys it was clear she had some type of skin thing. Joe agreed to take us to the Urgent Care in town so we packed our stuff and headed to town. As we drove past the neighbors house a bear ran across the street. Over 400 miles on the trail and our first bear encounter happens in a car.

The drive was only 20 min but felt like forever after not sitting in a car for so long. The wait was short and the Dr gave us 7 days on antibiotics. Sydney had to swollen them and was a bit nervous about it (but she did great). Urgent Care had the medicine so Sydney got to take a pill before we even left. The woman behind the counted brought out a PowerAid for Sydney to drink while taking her pull. After taking a sip Sydney read the label and didn't drink anymore, the first ingredient was High Fructose Corn Syrup. The boys didn't care, they guzzled it and then read what was in it.

I called Joe and he came back to get us. On the way back I asked if he would be OK with stopping at a health foods store we passed. He recommended Kroger down the street. We pulled into Kroger and it was the same spot I had taken the kids last year on our driving tour of the US. We stopped to eat at the Japanese restaurant last year, and now a year later we are back.

At the hostel with medication and a huge lunch we ate and talked. I mostly ate, the kids mostly talked to the other hikers. Most found it amazing we were hiking, and they all had positive things to say. Most people on the trail have heard of us and when we get to a shelter they say, "You must be Obla." It is odd, but word travels quickly on the trail.

We started leaving at 3:30, but had to say bye. Then talked with two section hikers that were getting a ride from a friend after bad blisters, and finally we met Bobby and Flapjack as they arrived at the hostel. So we didn't actually start hiking till 4:30. We couldn't make the 7 miles to the next shelter, and the road we will meet Andy at is only 6 miles away, so we choose to hike over half way and then tent.

Leaving the hostel we had a family picture taken by Kansas City. Harvey took a picture of us at break, and Harvey got a picture at our campsite.

Ticks at 4 Pines Hostel

This is the hammock that Harvey got his ticks from. We didn't go near it after that.

New Shoes

We got new shoes at the 4 Pines Hostel. Harvey, Pete, and Sydney.

4 Pines Hostel Pictures


Joe the owner was working 3 jobs to make extra money. One of his jobs was at a grocery store. One day a guy came in asking about a place to set up his tent. Joe had a good place at his house so invited the guy back. Joe showed him the garage and the guy loved it. The guy told Joe it would make a great hostel, but Joe didn't know what that was. The guy said no problem, he helped Joe make a sign and word of mouth did the rest. 3 days later more hikers showed up and he has been doing it ever since. That was 2000.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

4 Pines Hostel

Started at Sarver Hollow Shelter
Ended at 4 Pines Hostel
22.8 miles

Passed Sinking Creek Mountain, the northernmost spot on the trail where the route crosses a continental divide. Water flows west to the Gulf of Mexico and flows east to the Atlantic Ocean.

Next we passed the Audie Murphy Monument, at exactly the half way point of today's hike. Murphy was the most decorated American soldier of World War II. His single handed captured of a large number of German soldiers made him a legend. He went on to star in many Hollywood war movies and westerns.

Next we hit Dragons Tooth, a rocky outcrop along the trail. It was a very rocky section, and popular with locals (and kids too). It was a steep climb up, and it was even steeper when we headed down the other side of the mountain. The kids did great but it was slow going after a full day of hiking.

The 4 Pines Hostel is not our type of place, but all our boxes made it (new shoes for the kids, food, and Big Sur Bars). The owner said the other hikers would probably bring back beer, and having kids and also not being a drinker I was not thrilled. It is funny how the Hostel takes on the personality of the owner. The Hostel had two fridges and a sign about beer rules. It also had a wall of tools, and was located in a converted 3 bay garage. It also smelled and had 3 dogs, one was roped to a bed. We were not staying in that environment, but he had a barn on the property we could stay in. After Harvey got 5 ticks in the barn we pitched the tent on a hill overlooking the property. The tent spot is awesome, with great views all around and we can actually see the stars! The drawback is the noise from the road.

Today Sydney asked for a savings account for her 10th birthday (what a great idea). We talked about banking for at least an hour (credit cards, checking accounts, FDIC, interest, loans). Pete went on and on about Pillow Pets, and Harvey was our leader most of the day. Harvey and Sydney split leading while we went up the biggest hill of the day, but Harvey carries most of the leadership responsibilities on a normal day.

Today was different from the last few days because we ran into many hikers. Many we have not met before. A few seemed to be hiking slow, 7 mile days and complaining about it. I don't think anyone hiked more than us, they also didn't shave, shower, of laundry more than us. I don't know if that is true or not, but the inside of the hostel smelled like it was true. We saw Benadryl again but he didn't catch us, hopefully we can talk with him tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Double White Blaze

The trail is not a straight line and it meets other trails along the way. To let hikers know a turn is coming they use a double blaze. Sometimes they even offset the top blaze to indicate the direction of the turn. In this case the trail turns left.

Laurel Creek Shelter


Stopped at the shelter for a break, this is what Sydney wrote in the journal.

Sarver Hollow Shelter

Started at VA 613, Salt Sulphur Tpk
Ended at Sarver Hollow Shelter
17.3 miles

I woke up to a red sky as the sun started to rise. We tented and I didn't want to risk rain so I started cooking to get us moving. The kids woke up and placed an oatmeal order and we quickly packed. It took us an hour to get going. In about .3 we came to Wind Rock, the picture with a great view. The kids are wearing rain jackets in anticipation of rain but also to keep them warm. We also found many great campsites and wished we had hiked a bit further last night.

The first 5 miles we did in 2 hours and I started thinking we could do a big 20+ mile day, then we hit the uphill and did the next 5 miles in 5 hours. Not bad, but not on pace for 20 miles.

More green tunnel and forest hiking, but also some hiking in great farm fields. They cut the grass so it was low, and we found lots of blackberries to snack on. It was a nice change from the usual AT trail. We also found some blueberry bushes that were good to eat too.

Sydney loves to write in the shelter journals, so I'm sending a picture of what she did tonight.

We are still doing Thorns and Roses, and really like it. The thorn for today was not camping at wind rock and the rose (for me) was pumping water while soaking my feet in a cold stream.

We are very excited because our plane tickets home are purchased. We are heading back to California on August 17. That gives us around two more weeks of hiking before we spend time with my Aunt and Uncle.